Thurmond West Virginia: Historic Train Town

Oh how I have missed riding the bike!

The passion for travel with my sweetie, the drive to elect women and men who share my values (ie the values of Presidents Obama and Carter), and the hours at work have diminished my time on the bike significantly.  The desire to ride, however, is ever present in my mind and two weeks ago, I finally had a weekend without travel. I spent one whole day riding 225 miles through Virginia and West Virginia. Happiness! The destination was Thurmond, West Virginia, an early 1900s boomtown.

We had many miles to ride before arriving in Thurmond, and our first stop was Bluestone Dam, a popular place for bass, catfish, crappie, and bluegill fishing.  After a brief stop to look at Bluestone Lake and dam, we were off through New River Gorge country.

  While the others took off down a gravel road, I stopped for some photography.  I did not know when shooting this image that I was looking towards the historic Thurmond bridge.

The bridge has been rebuilt and rehabbed a few times, but the original bridge was built in 1889.

If you know me, you know I love a bridge, and I had to park the bike and walk out to capture this image looking down into the river.

The view down river from the bridge

The National Park Service restored the Thurmond Depot as a Visitor’s Center in 1995, and the NPS has made learning the history of Thurmond a walkable experience.

Two major fires, the arrival of roads, and the switch from steam engine to diesel engine led to the town’s decline.  Thankfully, the outdoor adventure industry and commercial whitewater rafting through the New River Gorge National River, have revitalized the area.

“Presently, the park owns approximately 80% of the town of Thurmond, including the historic Thurmond Depot. Three times each week, Amtrak uses the Thurmond Depot as a passenger stop and coal trains continue to roll through town hourly.  Though it is a shell of its former self, the historic town of Thurmond still stands as a reminder of the past. It truly is where the River meets History”! http://thurmondwv.org/about/history

It was a gorgeous day, perfect for riding, only made better by being with good friends.  Learning some history just added to the experience.  One more thing: the movie Matewan was filmed in Thurmond, WVA.

Historic Arrowtown

** This post, accidentally published as Private, is now available for view as Public **

We took another day trip, this time to Arrowtown, an historic gold mining town about 20 minutes from Queenstown.

Located alongside the gold-bearing Arrow River, the town was established in 1862 by local Maori man and sheep shearer, Jack Tewa (known as “Maori Jack”) during the height of the Otago gold rush. The settlement grew quickly as pioneers constructed cottages, shops, hotels and churches, more than 60 of which can still be seen today.  At the height of it’s popularity, the number of residents of Arrowtown grew to 7000.

Now, with its population at just over 2,000 residents enjoy excellent educational facilities, and a range of quality amenities including, library, museum, swimming pool, internationally acclaimed golf courses, medical centre, a nearby airport, hospital, ski fields, an ice rink, and events centre (this per the Arrowtown website).

With the gold rush long over, Arrowtown focuses on tourism.  Film production, viticulture and farming are also major income earners for the town.

Arrowtown received worldwide attention when The Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in and around the local environs.

The temperatures this day felt much more like fall, and we gathered for lunch in the New Orleans Hotel.  Pub style dining, which we encountered frequently, has you ordering your food and drink at the bar, and delivered later by a server.  New Zealanders tend to be more relaxed and this style of dining was welcome. Given our large group, we wrote down our orders and enjoyed our bevvies while we waited. How fun to enjoy Proseco while Merle Haggard played on the radio.

Before heading out in much cooler weather, we enjoyed what I have become addicted to: the flat white.

The Kiwi’s like to joke that there are more sheep than people in New Zealand, and while I’ve seen thousands, I’ve not had the chance to photograph any of them.  These metal sheep will just have to do.

 

I wish I’d had more time to walk along the Arrowtown Riverwalk and learn more of the history.  If I have any regret about this amazing vacation, it’s that there is just too much to see and do, and it’s just impossible to see it all.  I particularly would like to be doing more hiking.

No complaints though.  It’s been an incredible journey so far!

Virginia Women’s Monument

During my visit to Richmond a couple weeks ago, I was able to attend the Groundbreaking for the Virginia Women’s Monument. I’d attended an event several months prior and learned about this amazing project, and immediately started doing my part (my very, very small part) in helping to get the word out about it.

In 2010, the General Assembly established the Virginia Women’s Monument Commission to “recommend an appropriate monument in Capitol Square to commemorate the contributions of the women of Virginia”.

“Voices from the Garden is the first monument of its kind in the nation recognizing the full range of women’s contributions.  Voices takes the form of an oval shaped garden that encompasses twelve bronze statues of significant women from different centuries, backgrounds, and areas of the state.  The statues will be surrounded by a glass panel, etched with names of other noteworthy Virginia women”.

It was a bright, beautiful December morning, and I was glad that I arrived early as the seats filled in quickly and it was soon standing room only.

  One of the attendees was Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (1818 – 1907).  The actress (I wrote down her name, but regrettably I lost the slip of paper) portraying Elizabeth stayed in character during the ceremony and shared some of her story.

A slave who bought her freedom, Elizabeth became Mary Todd Lincoln’s seamstress and confidant during the White House years.

She established the Contraband Relief Association, which provided support for recently freed slaves and wounded soldiers, and she wrote a book called “Behind the Scenes in the Lincoln White House: Memoirs of an African-American Seamstress”.

Governor McAuliffe, long a champion of this project was present as was Nancy Rodrigues, Secretary of the Administration and a chief fundraiser for the project.

After the ceremony, many people picked up a shovel and took the opportunity to be captured in a photo.  Of course, I had to as well!

The inspirational woman on the right, in response to my comment about how I didn’t really break the ground said “oh yes you did.  We ALL did, and we still are”.

How right she is!

Fundraising still needs to be done.  Please follow this link if you’d like to contribute to the Virginia Women’s Monument.

Riding Through Civil War History

My weekend ride continued on Sunday morning and the route that I chose took me through Appomattox Courthouse.

You will most likely recognize the name Appomattox as the site of Lee’s surrender, effectively ending the Civil War.

It was quiet that morning, and all I heard were the birds singing and the leaves rustling in the breeze.

I could not help but think about the 620,000 souls who died during that terrible time when our country was so divided.

The peace that morning was such a contrast to the violence that was seen in those fields.

A solemn walk through this small confederate cemetery revealed the story of a soldier who joined the army on day one of the war, April 12th, 1861, and after serving for 1,458 days, was killed on the last day of the war, April 9, 1865.

Standing there that day, I could not help but think about how divided our nation is now, and how desperately we need a leader who will unite us.

Somehow we must learn the lessons of past tragedy and move beyond the divisiveness.

Birthday at The Winery

What better way to celebrate my mother’s birthday than at the Williamsburg Winery.

My parents live in Williamsburg, Virginia, a place that many people visit for the shopping.

I visit for family.  And history.  And the food and wine, of course.

We started with a visit to the tasting room where Calvin, the young but knowledgeable wine steward, not only introduced the wines but offered the history behind the labels and names.

This bottle of Acte 12 of 1619 was named after the Act that was passed by the 1619 House of Burgesses requiring all male households in Virginia to grow ten vines of the imported vinifera grapes from Europe.

How’s that for encouraging the growth of the wine industry in the new country?

How fortunate am I to have such incredible parents?

Once done with our tasting, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Gabriel Archer Tavern.

Gabriel Archer was one of the first settlers to set foot on land near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in late April 1607, moving on to Jamestown in August that same year.

We were having so much fun that I barely pulled out the camera, and the images in this post are a mix of camera and phone.

I wish I’d had more time to shoot the scene,

but really, I was just glad to have been able to spend the day with my parents and celebrate my mother.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Haytors Knob Fire Tower

Once a Wildland Firefigher, Always a Wildland Firefigher.

At least that’s how we feel in our hearts, and I’ve written about this in a previous post.

It’s been over 30 years since I worked a fireline, but when I saw this fire tower at the halfway point of our 6 mile hike to The Channels, I felt that old firefighter excitement deep inside.   The tower, built in 1939 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, was registered with the National Historic Lookout Registry in 2014.

According to the Registry, the tower construction materials were carried to the construction site on mules and on men’s backs.

When laying underneath, and looking up through the stairs, it truly seemed that the tower was moving against the clouds and sky.

Per the registry, the tower commands a view of over 60 miles on a clear winter day and fewer than six feet when the fog settles over the mountain.  Research did not reveal the height of the tower, but for some reason 100ft seems about right.  Oh, how I wanted to climb it but between the sign that said “No Climbing”, the lack of time, stairs (and probably the lack of muscle), I didn’t get very far.

The tower was in use from 1939 until the spring of 1970, and was the inspiration for a book called Fire Tower by Jack Kestner.  The late author wrote this adventure story in 1960 after serving as a lookout himself at the Hayters Knob fire tower.  “With this book, Jack honored the men and women of the Virginia Division of Forestry (now the Department of Forestry) who work tirelessly to protect lives and property during fire season”.

The tower itself is in much better shape than the cabin once used by the former lookouts.

As we turned to head back down the mountain, I took one last wistful look behind me.

The heart of a firefighter remains.

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See the previous post for more about the hike to the top of The Channels.

The next post will reveal images of the sandstone formations that give The Channels it’s name.

Make It a Movement

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I find that I have to keep the tissues close at hand as the emotions of 1/21/2017 overwhelm me.
Millions marched the world over.
More than 500,000 in DC with no arrests.
Not one negative comment or action did I witness.
Solidarity. Love. Passion. Commitment. Unity.
As my good friend and fellow marcher, Jim, noted “Now it is time to see that this marvelous moment becomes a meaningful movement that perseveres forward toward a future where justice and equality prevail. We shall not rest”.
That is our challenge.

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About these images: As we walked the 2 miles along East Capitol St, from RFK Stadium to the rally site, the people who lived there welcomed us with signs, high fives (and high walkers), cheers and thumbs up.

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As you might imagine, I have hundreds of photos to process.  I’ll be sharing more about this historic march as the days and weeks go by.  I realize that not all of you agree with me on these issues, but for those who do:

Let’s Make it a Movement!

I’ve already planned a Let’s Elect More Women event and havee got a postcard writing party in the works.

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